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Destination Playground volunteers complete their work in Willmar

Clay Conover / Tribune Robert Bierl, left, and Christian Janitschke cut components for the Destination Playground Thursday at Robbins Island in Willmar. 1 / 5
Clay Conover / Tribune Destination Playground volunteers work to finish installation Thursday at Robbins Island in Willmar.2 / 5
Clay Conover / Tribune Christian Janitschke files parts of the Destination Playground Thursday at Robbins Island in Willmar. 3 / 5
Clay Conover / Tribune Destination Playground volunteers finish their work Thursday at Robbins Island in Willmar.4 / 5
Clay Conover / Tribune Destination Playground volunteers work to finish installation Thursday at Robbins Island in Willmar.5 / 5

WILLMAR — The Destination Playground at Robbins Island is nearly complete.

Volunteers finished their work on time Thursday, working in good weather for a change. Work had to continue through heavy rain, high winds and 40-degree weather throughout the nine days the volunteers were installing equipment for the new Willmar playground.

"We started off on the extremely warm side where the difficulty was in keeping people hydrated," said Dave Wyffels, a building captain at the site, responsible for directing volunteers in their work. "And then, we went down to the complete opposite, where the difficulty was in keeping them warm and (to) keep them from suffering from hypothermia because people were soaking wet, with a good breeze, down at 40, 45 (degrees)."

The public-private partnership to build the $900,000 Destination Playground began planning and fundraising nearly a year ago. The steering committee recruited community members to provide the labor for the several days of installation during the past two weeks.

The volunteers had to stop working for most of a shift May 17 because of lightning.

"We had close to 200 people here who were only able to work for about an hour," said Marv Calvin, mayor of the city of Willmar. "We kept them under tents for about an hour and we had some weather events that caused us to have to take off."

Despite the poor weather, the volunteers worked efficiently enough to get back on schedule.

Volunteers finished final details on this portion of the playground installation Thursday and also cleaned the playground and the surrounding areas. They were mostly concerned with getting the site ready for Surface America, the contractor that will pour the playground's rubberized surface.

Getting the playground ready to open will take a couple weeks after that. After the rubberized surface is poured, the material has to cure, and final finishing touches have to be done, said Rachel Skretvedt, co-chair of the steering committee.

"One thing we want people to know is that even though it looks done, it's not," Skretvedt said. "We're going to have signs all around it. We're going to have the orange fence around it saying 'Keep Out' because it is actually a dangerous place because it's concrete. You're not supposed to play on concrete, because people will get injured."

The playground is 19,000 square feet, and is one of the largest playgrounds in the state. It features adult exercise equipment and full handicap access.

"Willmar being a bigger community, I think it will be used that much more," said Dennis Peterson, a volunteer at the site, and a member of the Willmar Area Community Foundation. "It's just a good addition to the whole area."

Mayor Calvin thinks the playground will improve the community's appeal.

"The major thing that the playground brings to us is it adds another tool in the tool chest for economic development because economic development drives the community," Calvin said.

People will not be allowed on the playground until it opens. A grand opening is planned June 24 during Willmar Fests.

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